WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — Early last month, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser promised a department to handle migrants and a leader to head it.
So far, though, there’s no person in place to run it and no location to process the migrants streaming in from Arizona and Texas at the orders of their governors to protest President Joe Biden’s immigration policies.
While migrant groups say the mayor should be applauded for tackling an issue she always wanted the federal government to handle, a centralized processing center is needed to help streamline a complicated process.
The Bowser administration had been working on a contingency plan to handle the influx of migrants since the Department of Defense twice turned down the mayor’s request to deploy the D.C. National Guard to help with processing migrants.
So last month, she declared an emergency declare a formal public emergency to take the action and then put $10 million in District funds behind it.
Abel Nunez, the executive director of Carecen, a DC-based advocacy group for migrants, said the goal was to get the District to get involved earlier but the mayor went the DC National Guard route.
“We’re happy that the (migrant service) office was done, that an emergency was declared,” Nunez said. “But yes, it is taking far too long. We know what we needed. We need a physical space where we can receive the immigrants coming in so that we can better do intake for them so that we can get them to where they need to be.”
The mayor’s office did not provide comment or when officials expect to hire a leader, only on a contractual basis, or when a site will be found.
“We don’t have a likely space in the District. We continue with partner organizations to look for that type of space,” Bowser said last month at a news conference announcing the migrant office.
Nunez said that the space the District finds must be “appropriate” to help with migrant’s transitioning with housing and even showers after a two-day journey from the West.
“And the office is coming in as a consultant. There’s not a full position. There’s no sense that in the next budget cycle that it will be included,” Nunez said. “So I think a lot of people coming in may hesitate to take this position.”
The sense of disappointment, he said, revolves around “the amount of work it puts on not having a space.”
Nunez said what’s needed “is a consistent space,” something “that can be open for 24 hours because buses come at all hours of the night.”
The majority of the well over 10,000 migrants only have stopped for brief stays in Washington, D.C. on their way to places like New York, North Carolina and Florida. District officials said there are some migrants staying at DC hotels that will be paid for from the $10 million in funds.